Just in case you were starting to believe that organized medicine's interest in the national healthcare reform debate was purely in patients' welfare now comes word of the next golf outing sponsored by the Medical Golfer's Association.
Wait, you haven't heard of the MGA? It's an organization exclusively for physicians who golf. The MGA sponsors at least three golf tournaments each year in exotic locales around the globe. For the $100 membership fee, a doctor gets bag tags, golf towel, membership card and golf balls; invitations to upcoming tournaments; newsletters; and a posted handicap.
And here's the best part. Continuing medical education seminars are offered at every tournament. "These continuing education seminars will allow each excursion to become tax deductible," the MGA says in its membership brochure. A portion of tournament fees collected by the MGA is donated to an "array of charitable foundations to help benefit medical sciences and research."
The MGA ran an advertisement promoting its next tournament in the American Medical Association's weekly newspaper. It's set for Sept. 3-9 at the Pebble Beach Golf Resort in Pebble Beach, Calif. For $2,900, a physician receives air transportation, seven days and six nights at The Inn at Spanish Bay; most meals; three 18-hole rounds of golf; one nine-hole "skins" competition; a clinic hosted by golf pro Johnny Miller; and, of course, six hours of CME seminars.
Wrong numbers.Remember when President Clinton promised Congress in his healthcare speech last September that he would use Congressional Budget Office figures on healthcare to ensure that all plans could be compared?
Well, that didn't last long.
In the 1995 budget's "mid-session review," a half-year analysis of the deficit prepared by the White House, the administration used its own numbers in determining the effect of healthcare reform on the deficit rather than the less favorable CBO figures.
For the five-year period 1995-1999, the administration claimed deficit reduction from healthcare reform would amount to almost $26 billion. Last February, the CBO said the Clinton plan would increase the deficit by more than $60 billion over the same period.
Fast bucks.Most executives at publicly held companies have "change-of-control" provisions in their employment contracts. If the company is sold, executives get more compensation in the form of options that vest early or severance contracts that kick in.
Earlier this month, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and Medical Care America filed their merger papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the merger qualifies as a change of control for Medical Care executives.
This "change in control" for Medical Care America will amount to $11.6 million worth of stock options that will vest when the merger is completed in September. Normally, those options would vest over a certain number of years; for example, many of the options held by Medical Care's top executives had an expiration date of 2003.
Don Steen, Medical Care's president and chief executive officer, gets the biggest boost. The value of his options vesting early-assuming a $29 value for Medical Care stock-is $3.7 million. Despite his windfall, Mr. Steen will remain on the payroll of Columbia/HCA, the nation's largest hospital chain with 196 facilities. He's already been named president of the chain's western division.
Saga continues.When Outliers last looked, Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar was in the hospital following quadruple heart bypass surgery (July 18, p. 44), his lieutenant governor, Robert Kustra, was departing for a radio talk show career and all questions about a possible conflict of interest involving Mr. Kustra's wife were put aside.
Now, Mr. Edgar is out of the hospital and has convinced Mr. Kustra to put down his microphone and stay on the Republican ticket this fall. Mr. Kustra announced last week he will be releasing his income tax returns, which have been questioned by Democrats. He also has demanded an apology from Mr. Edgar's challenger, Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch, saying her campaign spread falsehoods about his wife, Kathleen Kustra. Ms. Kustra was hired this spring by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. as vice president for network development in Chicago.
Mr. Kustra claims the Netsch campaign spread allegations that Ms. Kustra and Columbia would benefit from Illinois Medicaid reforms pushed by the Edgar administration and that was the reason behind his stepping down (July 11, p. 64). Outliers called the Netsch campaign and didn't get an apology out of them. In a similar vein, Mr. Kustra's tax returns have yet to surface.
Cooper's plans.Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who has been one of the most persistent thorns in the Clinton administration's side when it comes to healthcare reform, and who is once again drumming up support in Congress for a market-based reform plan, is doing all this while running for a seat in the Senate.
So far, Mr. Cooper is leading Republican Fred Thompson by about 10 points in the polls in the race for the open seat. Ironically, healthcare has not been his most effective issue to run on, despite the attention he has received over that subject in the national press. Instead, he has been forced to explain that he does not support the Clinton healthcare reform plan, as Mr. Thompson has claimed.
For his part, Mr. Thompson was in Washington recently and urged Republicans not to act on healthcare reform because to do so would give Mr. Cooper a lift.
"Republicans came out of that meeting saying, `Let's not do anything this year.' They really, really want to win that seat," said one Republican aide.